We just had our Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner to celebrate all of our accomplishments and close out the year. It was a little early but with everyone’s schedules and my grandmother having a table available at her favorite restaurant, this was how we accommodated everyone. Traditionally, children are suppose to return to their families. I’m very fortunate to live close to my parents and grandparents so we are always able to celebrate reunion dinner together.
Reunion Dinner Symbolic Foods
Almost every dish eaten during reunion dinner has symbolic meaning or a name that sounds like the Chinese character for fortune, happiness, longevity, and prosperity.
- Specialty soup to represent one of the New Year themes, for example, bird’s nest soup for youthfulness and long life or shark’s fin soup for prosperity.
- Fish and poultry dishes are served whole with head and tail. Using a knife is considered unlucky because it could sever the good fortune of an entire family. Green vegetables are also served uncut.
- Green vegetables symbolize the freshness of “evergreen” and store good fortune in their roots.
- Uncut noodles to symbolize longevity and life.
- The meal usually contains eight dishes because “eight” (八, ba) sounds like “prosper” (发, fa).
- An abundance of food is at dinner to ensure leftovers and symbolize an excess of good fortune in the new year. The fish in particular is never completely eaten because it symbolizes prosperity. Traditionally, no cooking is done on New Year’s Day so the leftovers from reunion dinner came in very handy.
Here is how my family celebrates reunion dinner.
My grandmother hosted reunion dinner at her favorite restaurant, Delight 28. This restaurant has changed names throughout the years but the food has stayed delicious. My grandfather also use to be an owner of a restaurant next store so coming to this location has a lot of history.
First, my mom hands out red envelopes to all of the serving staff to ensure the food in our reunion dinner will be extra delicious.
Growing up my mom or grandmother would cook this dinner but now it’s been easier to go out. We’ll hang out with each other before and after dinner, and a few minutes before our reservation, we’ll walk over to the restaurant, eat a great dinner and not have to clean up. Glorious!
This year my sister and her husband, Mike, were able to come in from Boston to join us for reunion dinner. My Baby is still working on her posed smile.
We drank a fish stomach soup. Fish stomach, or fish maw, is said to improve complexion, fertility and blood circulation.
Snails in black bean sauce. My grandfather taught me to eat and love these.
Bird’s nest. This was the best looking dish at our meal.
Crispy skin chicken (complete with head and tail) with oyster chips on top.
For my family, this dinner is traditional because we come together and eat symbolic foods for fortune, happiness, and prosperity. While we honor our culture, we also acknowledge our family in the world today and do things that are less traditional like choosing taste preference over symbolism. Instead of ordering a whole fish complete with head and tail, we ordered a family favorite, black bean, ginger, scallion fish.
Once the food started to come out, there wasn’t much conversation, just a lot of chop stick clicking.
Honey walnut shrimp. This is a favorite dish of my Uncle Donald (my mom’s brother), Aunt May (his wife), and Cousin Jennie (their daughter). In this dish, the shrimp are usually coated with mayonnaise but we always ask for it on the side which I’ve heard taste much better (I’m unfortunately allergic to shrimp).
One of our long life noodle dishes was stir-fried cellophane or glass noodles. We don’t usually order this dish in the restaurant but we might start because it was amazingly good. It was my favorite dish of the whole meal.
Peking pork chop. This restaurant does it the best.
Buddhist delight wraps.
Of course, lobster! Complete with head and tail.
Lots of leafy green vegetables. This was just one of the four vegetable dishes.
Our second long life noodle dish, mushroom noodles.
Then there was a break for some silly time. My girls love Cousin Jennie. She has new, cool, brown hair.
For dessert, we had oranges.
They were so sweet the girls just wanted more and more.
Finally, the sweet red bean soup. My Baby could drink everyone’s bowl if we let her.
One other less-traditional aspect of our dinner is we have way more then eight dishes. There were probably closer to eighteen (haha!). There were fourteen of us at dinner so eight dishes would not be enough to feed my hungry family.
Wow, just writing this makes me full all over again from eating all of the food. Do you have any favorite dishes from Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner?
Cheers to all our accomplishments this year,